CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Dennis Kucinich, a colorful liberal in Congress who tried to have former President George W. Bush impeached over the Iraq war, was defeated by a fellow Democratic incumbent on Tuesday in the first of 11 primary races this year pitting members of the U.S. House against each other.
Kucinich, 65, lost to Marcy Kaptur, the longest serving woman in Congress, who touted her influence as a senior member of the powerful committee that decides on government spending.
In November, Kaptur will face the winner of the Republican primary -- Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, better known as “Joe the Plumber.” He gained national attention in the 2008 presidential race by pressing then-candidate Barack Obama on tax policy.
Kaptur and Kucinich, once friends representing neighboring northern Ohio districts, found themselves competing for the same job when Ohio lost two Congressional seats after the 2010 U.S. Census.
The reshuffling of Ohio voting boundaries by the Republican-dominated state legislature created an oddly-shaped district that stretches along the Lake Erie shore from Toledo to just east of Cleveland, forcing a primary race between the two.
While most attention focused on the Super Tuesday Republican presidential primaries, Ohio also held primary elections for a U.S. Senate seat, all of its members of Congress and local posts.
In the primary on Tuesday, Kaptur won nearly all the vote from her home area of Toledo, and Kucinich was unable to close the gap with votes in his Cleveland base.
“I’ll continue to serve the entire region with the same vigor I have served the people of Lucas County (Toledo) for 28 years,” Kaptur told Reuters after Kucinich had conceded.
The Ohio fight between incumbents was the first of 11 Congressional primary contests across the country this year with incumbents facing off -- seven with two Democrats competing and four with two Republicans.
Kucinich is considered one of the most liberal members of the House. At 23, he was elected to the Cleveland City Council and was the city’s “boy mayor” from 1977 to 1979. He has served in Congress since 1997, and ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004 and 2008.
Kucinich opposed the Iraq war -- so much so that in 2008 he introduced articles of impeachment against Bush alleging misconduct and forced an impeachment vote on the House floor. The measure failed.
Kucinich also advocated ending the war on drugs, and faced criticism when he said he considered running for Congress in Washington state if redistricting left him without a district.
Kaptur, also 65, and in Congress since 1983, is the longest serving woman in the House, a member of the influential House Appropriations Committee, and could be its ranking member if re-elected.
In other Ohio contests, incumbent Republican Jean Schmidt from the Cincinnati area lost her seat in Congress. With nearly all returns counted, she trailed Brad Wenstrup, a little-known challenger with Tea Party support, according to the official results on the Secretary of State’s website.
In the race for an Ohio U.S. Senate seat, 34-year-old state Treasurer Josh Mandel easily won the Republican primary to challenge incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary. Early opinion polls have Brown with a double-digit lead over Mandel, although the Republican has raised a surprising amount of money for the race.
Reporting By George Tanber, Mary Wisniewski and Kim Palmer; Writing by Greg McCune; Editing by Cynthia Johnston